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Different Cultures, Different Advertising
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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When creating a message, we are taught first and foremost to know our audience. Who our audience is will be essential to choosing the type of creative and communication we use to make the advertising and messaging relevant and appealing. As brands go international, sometimes brand managers (and even AdLand) can forget that simple truth.

We had a conversation with a marketing manager in a large company that has its headquarters in Europe. By the end of the year, as many of us are accustomed to, they were planning its ad placements for the following year for its U.S. subsidiary. The marketing manager and their team created ads specific to the U.S. market, and those ads were sent to the Europe HQ for final approval. The result? The head honcho gave a resounding "no" to the campaign, and the U.S. division was forced to run the same generic ads that will be running in Europe.

Now brand consistency is one thing, but taking the relevancy out is an entirely different story.

Company executives for brands overseas must understand that different cultures will accept different forms of advertising. For example, the U.S. and Germany will approach a safe-sex campaign quite differently. We mentioned a few posts back about the refreshed birth control campaign with Bedsider. They added humor to the sex conversation because the United States has a very conservative perspective about such a national dialogue.

 
Simple humor; it gets to the point in America that sex is fun, and we all have our moments, but don't be stupid about it. In Germany, a campaign was launched about the dangers of unprotected sex. Here is their version:



Not so subtle, right? In Europe, sex is considered a part of daily life, and while not being cavalier about it, Europe is less conservative about sex conversations. And because of the seriousness of sexually transmitted diseases, this ad doesn't hold anything back. It is safe to assume that unless we patronize niche magazines, we won't be seeing an ad like this in the U.S. nationally anytime soon.

When we work with clients who are trying to expand their footprint on an international scale, it is important to ask them how they are willing to portray their brand. Humor, shock, and brashness can work better in some countries than others, and the CMO or executive suite must decide how they are going to tackle that relationship. A commenter on one of our posts wrote that as AdPeople, it is our responsibility to help guide the corporate marketer to make the best decisions possible and set them up for success. It is our job to create strategies that can be easily approved by the "higher ups". We may find that challenging when their supervisors reside in a different country, with different, cultural-oriented tendencies.

This is where trust is important in the agency/client relationship. We must have a close enough relationship with the brand to let us shift gears (if needed) in different cultures. No Coca-Cola, for example, tastes the same around the world. Finding out the right way to introduce or expand your brand across cultural lines is important. And just defaulting to what you usually do in your native land would not only be ineffective, but even detrimental. 


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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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